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Suicide is a tragedy too often felt locally

To inspire, support, Hennigan shares her personal story

Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 3:04 a.m. CDT

Last Friday, another person committed suicide – Matthew Warren, son of Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay.

“He struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided,” Warren wrote.

The Behavioral Health Alliance of Grundy County also grieves for the loss of this young man due to mental illness and we hope the Warren family appreciates us using this tragedy as another reason to raise the awareness of local resources for our neighbors with mental illness and the friends and families who support them.

Not all suicides happen far from here.  Here’s the story from a colleague who has experienced the suicide of a loved one:

A Sister’s Story

Every year on my brother’s birthday, the anniversary of his death, or when I hear of another suicide, I post on Facebook the phone number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline, (800) 273-TALK. This year, I added the line, “The life you save may be your own.”

I’m not really sure why that phrase kept running through my mind. I thought that maybe I had heard it years ago in some kind of medical slogan. Nonetheless, I wrote and posted it.

The life you save, may be your own.

My brother, Tom, committed suicide on Aug. 25, 2010. The shock, grief and sadness of his death has affected each one of his family and friends in ways he could never have imagined.

Our hearts are broken, our minds constantly wonder — what could we have done differently? Qhy didn’t we see this coming? Why didn’t he ask us for help? and, How could he have done this to himself? We wonder when we will ever feel real joy and happiness again, without feeling guilty because he isn’t here to share it with us.

Tom was the youngest of 5 children. He was a cute kid with an “afro” of curly, red hair and lots of freckles. As he grew, he developed a great sense of humor and kept people in stitches with his sly, sarcastic remarks.

He wrestled and played football in school and he had a great circle of friends, many of whom he knew since grammar school. He worked, he was married and had two beautiful children, and he owned a home. He was a great son, brother, friend, uncle, husband and father.

Tom’s wife asked for a divorce in July of 2010. He wondered what he had done wrong in the marriage and if his children would be better off financially if they received Social Security Survivor’s Benefits as opposed to child support.

On Aug. 25, 2010, he came home from work, ran out to Home Depot to get light bulbs, started painting the shutters in the backyard and then hanged himself in the garage. He was 39 years old.

We wonder at the turmoil Tom had kept bottled up inside. We wonder why he didn’t ask for help or be willing to take our offers of help. He had never exhibited any signs of depression. He had good, close friends. Accidents happen, people get sick and die, but there are no answers in suicide.

The act of suicide ripples through and affects so many people in its tide. The first few months of shock and disbelief have given way to an overall sense of sadness.

As a family we have gone through times of alienation and isolation. Some of us have felt anger at different parties at different times over different issues. It has been a struggle to accept life without Tom.

We seem, at times, to have accepted the new normal of our lives and at other times the anger, resentment and despair raises its ugly head. Holidays and anniversaries are especially difficult, but sometimes so are Thursdays and football days and barbecue days. We understand and believe it will get better, and it has, but it still hurts, terribly.

We tell Tom’s story, we share our story. We speak his name. We continue to put one foot in front of the other. We remember the good times, we honor him.

We always wish that he were here.

If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-TALK. The life you save, may be your own.

Debbie Hennigan
Sister to Tom Hennigan

———

HELP IS AVAILABLE

Members of the Behavioral Health Alliance plead with all of Grundy County to keep two phone numbers handy and PLEASE call one of them if you are feeling depressed or suicidal.

Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-TALK

Crisis Line of Grundy County (815) 942-6611

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